Friday, August 26, 2011

A fine meshwork


It has been a long time since i have blogged. Largely because i have been busy in multiple things over the past months and i have not found a blog-worthy topic.

This is going to be a commentary (a rather opinionated one) largely on governance of India and the aspect of redundancy of governing institutions.

India is the largest democracy in the world and by being so, it incorporates the classic framework of democratic governance. I am talking about the the multiple overlapping branches of governance. There is the parliament with the upper and lower houses, there is the cabinet which is designated by the ruling party/alliance. There is the president (who, in Indian system does not have very strong powers except that of declaring emergencies). There is the judiciary who is appointed by the parliament. There is the police and the armed forces. In addition to this, there are independent bodies such as RAW, CBI, the election commission etc.

The most important reason why these work together in a democratic setting is the overlap and the redundancy among these institutions. Neither one of the above-mentioned institutions are singularly powerful over others. I.e. there is not one single body which does not have any interference (for a lack of a better word) from another. This is the key to having these work together in harmony. I should mention here that under conditions of Martial law, the president and the armed forces do become supremely powerful. But that's an exception.

The reason i am mentioning this redundancy is because of the recent events that have occurred in India about the so called 'Jan Lokpal Bill'. I am a novice in reading about bills and laws etc etc. But what i gathered from the Jan Lokpal Bill (JLB) is that the institution of Lokpal that people want created will end up having an absolute power over all the other institutions. And in my opinion, that will not be a good thing. Not that i am saying that the Govt Lokpal Bill is great. They are trying to give the Lokpal as few powers as possible in order to avoid scrutiny. But i think that JLB is aiming to create an absolute governance body. And that is undesirable.

The reason i said that redundancy is critical, is the fact that if there was one absolute institution, that can rise in power and become an effective dictatorship. Whereas, in a democracy, the only institution that can and should control governance is the people. So if the ultimate effective governance is from the people, then a question of dictatorship does not arise (unless there is a revolution). Another problem with having an absolute body is that, if that body becomes corrupt, then there is no stopping that. Take the example of the Nazis. The Nazis were in the beginning true to their name 'National socialist party'. But, because they were allowed to have an absolute power, Hitler could use that and turn the government into a dictatorship.

JLB is petitioning to create the Lokpal which will have jurisdiction over all other institutions. If the Lokpal becomes corrupt tomorrow, then all the other institutions will be under its control, which will make the system deviate from a true democracy, so i think that JLB as it is should not be passed. However, if created, the Lokpal will be a fresh institution and will prove to be effective in stemming corruption, as long as it does not have absolute power. Which brings me to my next point.

One of the caveats of the 'meshwork' of the democratic governance is that it is inherently prone to spreading corruption. Imagine a network of tubes filled with water. If you add a drop of ink to one of the nodes, it eventually spreads to the entire network. And such is our system. But then how will the Lokpal be effective? It will be effective by manipulating the same caveat. Now imagine a network of tubes filled with ink. Add a node full of bleach to it. The bleach from that node will spread throughout and start clearing the entire network. This is a very crude analogy, but in this case, the bleach will be the intent and anti-corruption activities of the public. So in my simple analogy, as long as there is a constant supply of bleach to this meshwork, the result should be effective clearance of ink.

The beauty of our governance system is that each node can be influenced by any other node without existence of a direct connection. To borrow a quote from a completely unrelated movie (Those of you who are avid fans, will recall), this is the system's greatest strength and the greatest weakness.

I shall end this post by urging all Indians to think objectively about what the JLB is proposing and also to not blindly follow it just because you want to steam off the anti-corruption emotions.

1 comment:

Shambhu Banerjee said...

our Indian democracy provides a "Decorated" society for the citizens. The political parties use us accordind to their own intentions with the help of law. There is a huge gap between thae people and Govt. Unless a revolution happend(which will be done by the common people), nothing will happened. We force others to be corrupted for taking advantage. Untill this won't stopped, the system just uses us. We need to wake up. We need to change our mentality. We should step forward for a clean and prosporous country.